Brian Irr Selected As Third Member Of U.S. Olympic Karate Team

by Todd Kortemeier

Brian Irr (right) competing in a karate event.


When 32-year-old Brian Irr started competing in the sport at the age of 8, karate at the Olympic Games was just a faraway dream for practitioners around the world.


Now 24 years into his career, Irr will be part of the historic Olympic debut of karate after officially being named to the team Tuesday, becoming the first Team USA Olympian competing in the kumite discipline.


Irr competed at the June Olympic qualification tournament in Paris, and while he didn’t qualify directly by finishing in the top three in his weight class, Irr did secure his spot via continental representation. Each region is allocated a certain number of spots in each class and Irr finished well enough in men’s kumite 75+ kg. to earn his way to Tokyo. The kumite discipline differs from kata, the other Olympic discipline, in that athletes spar against each other.


Irr, who will turn 33 just before the Games, grew up in Newfane, New York. At the international level he had his first breakthrough at the 2015 Pan American Games, winning the bronze medal in 84+ kg. He won gold at the 2019 Pan Ams, helping Team USA win the most gold medals in the tournament. Irr made his first Karate 1-Premier League final in 2020 and won his first gold medal. He currently ranks ninth in the world in 84+ kg.

Todd Kortemeier is a sportswriter, editor and children’s book author from Minneapolis. He is a contributor to on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.